• digging for potatoes

  • Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).
Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).

Moderator: MEC407

  by Cowford
In considering (a) high fuel prices and (b) MMA's assumed desperation to convert traffic to rail, does anyone know if MMA is considering re-entry into the potato market?
  by bwparker1
If the paper mill(s) online do shut down due to costs of Oil, you would think they are would be really hurting for traffic. That being said, all of Maine it going to be hurting with the high price of Oil. I just read that 87% of Maine homes are heated by Oil. WOW!

  by oibu
I've seen similar breakdowns of home heating sources in Maine. Interesting to note though that wood was not even a seperate heading, and "other" was only 3% of the total. Certainly in much of the state, wood is huge part of the pie. Not sure if these numbers reflect the distribution of Maine's population (i.e. mostly in the southern/urban/suburban areas which probably do rely mostly on oil) or as I tend to suspect given that wood was not even listed and "other" accounted for only 3% of the total, the survey was conducted in such a way that anyone who's home inluded an oil, gas, or electric heating system was considered to utilize that fuel source... regardless of teh degree to which they ACTUALLY use it. I'm sure the reality is that there is a very large percentage of homes in Maine that utilize wood as a primary or partial heating fuel source but also have another heating source available. Certainly these days most folks that have the choice would be using their woodstove instead of their oil or baseboard electric. In which case these numbers could be VERY misleading. We all know what is said about statistics...
  by consist
Idaho potatoes already run the New England market, traveling by rail rather than truck. What is the scope of the market for Maine potatoes? If it's short hauls in a lot of different directions, rail can't compete. What is their route, where do they unload? How many carloads can they run to a single consignee? I don't think Maine potatoes are suddenly going to kick Idaho potatoes out of any current market, so the only thing rail can do is bring Maine potatoes in bulk to a place where Maine potatoes were already going in bulk by truck. Is there such a place? Is this all about McCain?
My question is this: since potatoes travel by mechanical reefer, which runs on diesel, doesn't that eat into the savings generated by rail's better fuel efficiency over trucks? Or is the amount negligible?
  by NYC27
There are a bunch of problems with shipping potatos by rail out of Maine. #1 is that the volumes grown just aren't what they used to be. #2 Like the previous poster said where do they go in bulk? Hunt's Point market in the Bronx used to be the big destination and I'm sure it still is, but more truck shipments move around terminal markets and go customer direct these days. #3 They don't ship year round. Based on USDA figures available online, there is a about 4 month period in the summer when almost nothing ships. To be successful in the rail business you need to find other uses for those assets in the slow season. The BAR used to send their reefers to Pacific Fruit Express and Merchants Despatch (and in return lease PFE and MDT cars when things got busy) and send engines to the PRR for use on the ore docks in Cleveland for the summer. The rail perishable market is so small these days you can't find a home for cars in the off season like you used to. #4 service: there is no high speed service out of Northern NE anywhere close to the old "Maine Bullet" coordinated service via BAR-nmjct-MEC-portland-BM-worcester-NH from Oakfield, ME to Oak Point, NY.

Question: Do Potatos really need a refrigerator car? I thought the BAR and NH had a pool of 40' PACCAR insulated boxcars for this service, supplemented with surplus ice reefers only because they were cheap to acquire secondhand. Potatos aren't refrigerated in the store, but they need to be kept at a constant temp and never let to freeze. Am I wrong?

Intermodal is a tough solution as well because it is a one way lane and not very long. Truckers delivering in NY and Philly can at least get a backhaul part of the way to Northern Maine. On the other hand the french fry market is open for discussion, it doesn't have the service needs of fresh potatos because frozen products have a much longer shelf life. There are also a few points that the stuff moves in bulk to like Martin Brower (McDonalds) DC in Enfield, CT. They also ship year round. These were the last potatos moving by rail out of the County. Logically they would be the first ones to return.